Designers

I want to work until I’m 67, and I’m at a crossroads. Advertising has an age cutoff of around 45 (which I am approaching). How are one’s prospects of growing old doing solely UX, versus Advertising?

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Technology, culture, the world and our habits have been changing faster and faster. Just like advertising, UX will not be around for long in its current incarnation. If you take the long road and keep in mind how each discipline has shifted, have a true interest in it, keep learning and growing, then there’s no reason to be scared of growing old. The basic core principles remain the same.

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Fishbowl’s character limit prevented me from being clear. I’ll clarify — I’m not scared of growing old. I like growing old. I’m scared of having no job due to ageism, which is rampant in the advertising industry. All of my older colleagues in advertising are “freelance” (unemployed) because they were aged out. I don’t want the same to happen to me in UX, so I am asking if there’s a similar age cutoff in UX, so I won’t blow $15K on General Assembly tuition.

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I would suggest you consider a few things: 1. Trying a shift to UX/experience strategy rather than core UX (assuming you mean interaction design work here). Too many people can churn out wireframes, not enough people know why 2. This allows you to get more senior in an organization, as you move away from straight production to more guidance and leadership. Strategic thinking (e.g., customer empathy, cultural change in the business) are things junior and less experienced people often lack, and that businesses need more of 3. Eventually transition to industry. The above skills will serve you well. If you stay out of Silicon Valley and startup land, many businesses are realizing they need the above skills and won’t have the cachet to get the rare Hot Young Things who can do this well. Anyway, some of that is hypothesis - but I do see strategic thinking and leadership as your best hedges against ageism if you stay in or near the industry.

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Like any other job or discipline, UX Designers are not immune to ageism. If that is your main reason for going through GA, I would recommend doing more research on ageism per industry (rather than role) before plunking down 15k.

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Dan Norman, Jared Spool

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A lot of people become senior “doers”, whether that’s coding, planning or design, and hit a wall as they age. The pool gets more crowded every year you stay in. Becoming a player/coach role eases you into leadership, which lessens the doing (which you love and are great at) and elevates you to a role leading doers and managing process. This can be a good place to be since you have experience and new people need mentorship and well managed operations. Then eventually more full time leadership is the role. Many who steadfastly stick to “doing” and never embrace leadership/management as they age are at risk of losing a position one day and not being sufficiently differentiated in the marketplace (other than being much more expensive). Rare is the talent who is so fantastically good at a specialty that they can just do their one thing for decades without expanding their skill set. The trick is to keep learning and being relevant, adding value, kicking ass and accepting some valid changes due to seniority. I don’t like the ageism excuse. Though it’s out there, youth is valuable in tech and communications for valid reasons: idealism, flexible brains, fast learning, risk profile, closer connection to new ideas and trends—and ability to focus on a specialty.

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I’ve been a brand designer for 14 years. What’s your best advice on how to transition from being a professional doer to player/coach?

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I’d also focus on a niche category and own it. It’s the unique expertise mashup that endures.

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